In the fray that is Sunset Boulevard, newcomer RH Restaurant located in the sleek ANdAZ hotel (formerly the “Riot Hyatt House” famous for legendary rock stars riding their motorcycles through the hallways) makes a statement with its careful sourcing of ingredients and commitment to turning said produce into fresh, delicious grub for locals and visitors alike. It might sound like a repetitious story but there is an honesty about RH aided no doubt by the fresh faced, smiling staff and an open kitchen that allows visitors to see exactly how the ingredients they are about to eat are prepared. RH is not your average hotel-restaurant but more of a foodie haven with the highly talented executive chef Sébastien Archambault at the helm. Archambault works with fresh ingredients as if he were a farmer raising the food himself and the menu he created consists of choice entrees or the option to compose your own masterpiece dish from the “Market List”. First choose an ingredient (seared, tartare or stir-fried) beef, seafood or chicken, then pick from the various vegetables, add in a delicious sauce or chutney (or a mixture of both if you want) and finally a side to accompany the dish. With so many mix and match choices it can be a bit daunting if you’re an indecisive type, so you can return again and again and try different dishes. In keeping with the local theme, all of the wines (over 80 varieties) with the exception of the champagne come from California.
Sébastien Archambault, is unique to the Los Angeles restaurant scene. Originally from France and trained under some of the most acclaimed chefs in the world. We took a moment to talk to him about his food philosophies, the restaurant biz and the marked differences between Paris and Los Angeles.
Haya Zoubi: If you weren’t a chef what would you do?
Sébastien Archambault: I would want to be a vegetable farmer.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the menu you created at RH?
A: I created the market-to-table menu because of the variety of produce available in Southern California. With so many options, it allows for me to be very creative, especially with the changing seasons. It’s nice to be able to give guests freedom to choose what they want to eat and also a variety of options throughout the year.
Q: Who have you trained with?
A: My dad was the first to train me. He was the owner of two restaurants and I learned my first lessons from watching him. My mentor after my dad was Jean Francois Rouquette in Paris. He taught me more than just cooking skills. From Jean Francois, I learned management skills and how to create menus based on the produce that’s available.
Q: Did training with Alain Ducasse influence your cooking style?
A: The training with Ducasse was rigorous. He taught me organization, respect of the produce, and high cooking techniques. This has affected my cooking style because I don’t settle for just “okay.” I am constantly pushing myself and my team to strive for more, with their techniques, goals, and creativeness.
Q: It’s so fun being able to watch you and your staff cook with the open kitchen area. Can it be nerve racking knowing that your guests are watching you cook the whole time?
A: No, I don’t think it’s nerve-racking. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. I really enjoy the interaction between my team and the guests. It gives us a bit of an adrenaline rush. This also allows for us to get immediate feedback. Because the space is so open, I can see the faces of each of our guests. I know right away if they love it or not. We have nothing to hide and we are very open to welcome guests into our space so they can learn along with us.
Q: How do you keep your staff inspired?
A: I have a whip in the back! (hahaha). Unlike traditional kitchens where the chef might be barking the orders, I allow for my team to be very involved with the day-to-day planning and creative process. I give them goals each day and then encourage them to find their own way of solving each.
Q: What are some of your favorite items on the fixed RH menu?
A: This is easy. The beef cheek, the diver scallops and the field mushroom risotto.
Q: For an indecisive person (like me) it can be quite hard to choose what I want from a menu like the “market list” with so many delicious choices and ways to mix and match. What is your personal favorite mix and match?
A: Oooo, that is a tough one. For me, I like a fish option, seared, with green asparagus, baby spinach, broccolini, and boc choy. For a sauce, I really like the basil, pine nut and parmesan pesto, top with fresh olive oil sauce. It’s awesome!! Oh, and a side of mashed potatoes!
Q: What region offers some of the best food in the world?
A: It really all depends on the style of cuisine you are looking for. This isn’t a question that’s so easily answered.
Q: How different is the Parisian restaurant scene versus the Los Angeles dining scene?
A: The mentality of the guests is not the same. In my opinion, the guests that I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles are more friendly. They like the interaction between them and my team. I like it as well. It’s a nice feeling to know that I can go up to their table and be welcomed so warmly.